NEW YORK -- Today marks the 50th Anniversary of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum! The internationally renowned art museum was designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright and officially opened its doors on October 21, 1959. From the beginning, the relationship between the breathtaking architecture of the building and the art it was built to display has inspired controversy and debate.
To celebrate their golden anniversary, the Guggenheim offered free admission today as well as a variety of educational programs, special screenings, giveaways and a live Twitter tour of their landmark building.
The New York Daily News published a fantastic list of 50 reasons to visit the Guggenheim in honor of the big day. Here are just 10 of those fun museum facts:
- Curator Hilla Rebay, a German baroness, chose the museum's architect. Some theorize that she selected Wright, a renowned American visionary, to pacify critics who accused her of favoring European creative minds over American ones.
- To design the museum, Wright created more than 700 sketches.
- The structure faced harsh criticism when it opened in 1959. One critic dismissed it as "a war between architecture and painting, in which both come out badly maimed." Another called it "an indigestible hot cross bun." NYC Parks Commissioner Robert Moses snapped that it looked like "an inverted oatmeal dish."
- Wright wanted the building to have curved surfaces to convey "an atmosphere on the unbroken wave." He was adamant that there be no distractions, not even carpeting or curtains.
- Wednesday night, the Empire State Building will be lit "Guggenheim red" in celebration of the museum's anniversary. Early on, Wright wanted the museum to be crimson, which he described as "the color of creation." Rebay wrote back, "Red is a color which displeases [founder Solomon Guggenheim] as much as it does me."
- An early version of the museum was housed at 24 E. 54th St., where it was called the Museum of Non-Objective Painting. The gallery featured plush carpeting, burning incense, and a soundtrack of Bach and Chopin. The paintings were hung close to the floor so that they could be viewed by seated visitors.
- One of Guggenheim's favorite painters was Wassily Kandinsky; he bought more than 150 works by the artist. An exhibition of Kandinsky's work is on view at the museum through the end of the year.
- Guggenheim helped the Russian-Jewish artist Marc Chagall flee Europe in 1941.
- In August, during normal business hours, graffiti artist Mat Benote managed to stick one of his canvases to a wall in the museum, complete with an explanatory blurb. It was removed within minutes.
- A Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, was designed by Frank Gehry and opened in 1997 to rave reviews. A Guggenheim Museum in Abu Dhabi, also designed by Gehry, is in the works.
[Read more - 50 Facts About the Guggenheim | New York Daily News]